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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Phased Re-Entry

I’d say the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim is The Ultimate Guys’ Museum, but that is giving it short shrift. This museum is privately owned and funded, and military history is a particular fascination of the owners. Scores of mannequins are accurately clothed in period-correct apparel. How can such an enormous collection of expensive technology be in private hands? The owners hold the worldwide patent on the connectors used to hold building scaffolding together and in place.

It’s been a week of home work before getting into book work. My wife Carolyn and I moved just before I left for Germany. I know—talk about perfect timing! Circumstances and opportunities always intrude on life. But it literally was just before. I finished my last load into the new house, took a shower and headed to LAX to fly to Frankfurt the next morning.

So returning to Santa Barbara involved not only finding where I had packed clean clothes. It also meant getting Internet access set up, rearranging furniture, and reconnecting with friends.

Now I’m going to loop back half a week to our last full day in Germany. Jerry and I went to one of the most eccentric museums. Well, no—it’s not really a museum. It’s a huge collection of transportation and technical things that also is populated with hundreds of mannequins dressed appropriately to what is around them.

This place is huge—as the pictures will suggest. It measures 30,000 square meters, that’s about 350,000 square feet, and on display is everything from an Air France Concorde jet to mini-cars to huge (and vastly entertaining) mechanical orchestras to war-time vehicles to locomotives to showcases of women’s fashion from the turn of the 20th Century.

There are two restaurants, an Imax Theater, and an incredibly well-stocked gift, souvenir, CD/DVD, and bookshop. If you go, take plenty of one and two Euro coins. There are lots of opportunities to get the mechanical orchestras to play, or even to swivel the gun turret of a German Tiger tank.

The two supersonic jets are an Air France Concorde and an Aeroflot Illyushin. Visitors can go into each by way of a spiral staircase. Go on a cool day.

Dioramas such as this one are scattered throughout the collection. Everything is spotless. The cars and the clothes show no dust. Imagine the maintenance challenge!

Yep! That's a Los Angeles Police Department "Cruiser!"

Fun for the whole family! Swivel the turret! Aim the gun barrel!

Running on compressed air, this Orkestrion plays cardboard music rolls that feed continuously through the machine at the near end. There are hundreds of songs available.

If you go, plan to spend at least three hours. Some areas have signs explaining what you see, mostly in German, though there is some English. Other areas just let your imagination carry you away.

Back in Santa Barbara, I’m settling into my new routine. I’ll begin transcribing interviews for the book next week and with each, I’ll add to the blog updates one or two of Jerry’s photos of these folks. I am eager to get to their stories. As I do with most of my books, I plan to let these people who made the history tell you about it in their own words.

This last shot shows the view from my front deck at 6 o’clock this morning, just before sunrise. Now you can see why I had to grab this place while it was available. Yes, that is the Pacific.
This weekend promises fun. One of my hobbies is making wine. Friday we are bottling our first vintage of Pinot Noir, from 2009. We’ll have about 85 cases when we’re finished. Our 2010 vintage is in oak barrels till next year. My partners in this adventure and some friends are gathering for a late lunch and we’ll taste our “product” from the bottle for the first time. I’ll report back.

Stay tuned!

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